Sunday, October 24, 2010

Sunday Mind Dump - Oct 22

About Me…

After being off work for two weeks I came to realize how much non-stop pressure I live with. I couldn’t see this before. Funny thing, when you are in the pressure cooker all the time you simply muscle up and deal with it. And if you stay there long enough it begins to feel normal. IT’S NOT NORMAL TO LIVE THAT WAY. It was only by getting away that I gained a new perspective. Now that I see clearly, I will not return to my previous patterns.

To battle burnout I’m going to slow down and simplify my hectic life. I’m going to unplug a lot more. Less noise, less coffee, fewer phone calls, shorter to-do lists, and getting involved in more things I enjoy doing that are not ministry related. I think I will buy a small boat and go fishing.

Pastors are expected to do too much. What’s worse, some pastors think it’s normal to keep doing more and more. Consider: some people expect their pastor to pick up their children from school, talk to them when they can't sleep at night, mow their lawn, and fix their car. Some congregations expect pastors to wear too many hats: he must be a therapist, marriage counselor, spiritual advisor, scholar, teacher, healer, administrator, accountant, fund-raiser, friend of children, preacher, church leader, community activist, hospital Chaplin, wedding planner, funeral director, baby dedicator, and house-blesser. But it doesn’t end there; he should also conduct religious services, plan and lead special services, make house calls, show up at recitals, be on call seven days a week, and work on holidays – Christmas Eve, Easter, and Thanksgiving. Pastors must have perfect marriages and produce exceptional kids. Finally, they must live in homes that are acceptable to public opinion and drive automobiles that are not too expensive.

It’s very easy to get caught up in a squirrel cage of activity, spinning too many plates on the end of a stick. All of this leads to a diminishing shelf life for pastors. They just burn out and quit.

The pace at which I have been working has been destroying the work of God IN me. I’m not going to be a causality of the ministry. The fog has lifted and I see more clearly now.

About the State of our Church….

I read about 15 blogs each day, mostly by other pastors. I appreciate the transparency of some because they talk about the challenges they are facing and the things that are not working well in their churches. Other pastors just brag about how awesome everything is all the time, only sharing the good news or either hyping the not-so-good news.

I don’t want to be one of those guys who blogs a bunch of baloney. The truth is, leading a church is hard. Ministry is messy and things often don’t always go according to plan. In fact, at any given time about 30% of what we are doing at PCC needs to be fixed. Systems become overtaxed, programs lose their effectiveness, people don’t show up, a ministry leader needs to be disciplined, etc. Just as soon as we fix one area another area needs attention. It’s an ongoing challenge and our work is never done.

Here are two things that we’re not very good at right now:

Giving. About 80% of our giving (income) comes from 30% of our attendance. Of course, this speaks well regarding the 30 percent who give regurlary – these people are demonstrating a deep level of commitment to Jesus Christ and to their church family (not to mention growing in discipleship). On the other hand, it is also a sign that a lot of people have been attending PCC for a long time who still haven’t excelled in the grace of giving. While this is typical in most churches, I don’t like it. We can do better. In fact, we "must" do better because the demands on the ministry exceed our ability.

Staffing. Our church is understaffed. Period. A church of 450 people (plus their extended family members who consider our church as their spiritual point-of-contact in time of crisis - which equals about 1400 people) cannot be adequately taken care of by three full-time staff members. Could your company of 450+ people be managed by three full-time employees? The fact is, there is too much is going on for us to respond to or manage appropriately. There are sicknesses, deaths, marriages to perform, ministries to supervise, Sunday services to prepare for, maintenance issues on the building, administrative matters, add infitim, that make it impossible for us to stay on top of. Our only options are:

• Add more full-time staff
• Or decrease the size of our congregation (right size it) to a level that three full-time staff members can take care of.

I have a plan for both options – both of which will be uncomfortable.

My favorite size church is about 300 people. At that size I know almost everyone on a first name basis, and their kids by name. Heck, I even know the name of their pets! I have time to go into people's homes, and have company over to my house. My ego does not need a church larger that that. But if it's God's will for us to be larger than we are right now, then so be it. I'll go where He leads. God will provide... and He will provide through YOU, His people. If it is not God's will to be larger than we are right now, I am prepared for a downsizing.

All churches go through different seasons in their life cycle. Even healthy churches experience life cycles of growth, pruning, decline, and blessing. A healthy church does grow, but also receives pruning from God’s hand. Size is not in our hands. Size is in the hands of the Sovereign One.

Who knows why a church suddenly “starts growing” or suddenly “stops growing.” Sure, sometimes it’s not difficult to figure out. But others times it is baffling. Trying to figure out what “season” we are in is vital. Myself, I think we are on the verge of a pruning. God often prunes the branches so that they might bear more fruit. I think our church has a lot of dead wood that might need to be removed.

I have braced myself for anything God wants to do at PCC. One thing is for certain, I’m stepping out of the way.

No matter what season we are in, some things CAN BE DONE in “any” season. We must always be about Kingdom work. We are to be preaching and teaching sound doctrine, fulfilling the Great Commission, baptizing, and making disciples regardless of what season we are in. We are to be training young leaders, and administer the sacraments no matter the season.

This is what the Bible means when it says to “be instant in season and out of season” (2 Timothy 4:2).

About Today’s Service…

Today’s church service was very good. The band did an exceptional job just as they did last week. And Gene hit another home run with the sermon. You were there and seen it for yourself, so there’s not much I can add to it.

I attended the second service and took notes during the sermon. I was blessed.

We’ve made some significant strides at PCC over the last few months – specifically in the area of role changes and improvements in the Sunday morning service. Our work is still not done, there is more to do.

I will say, however, that one of my goals is to build a teaching team of two or three teachers – giving away about 30% of the preaching over the course of the year. It will be a win for everyone: Our congregation will benefit by hearing the teaching of others (i.e., my perspective on the Christian life is not the only valid one); PCC will be protected in the event I was unable to preach (i.e., sickness or death); the teachers will benefit by having an opportunity to develop their God-given teaching gifts; and I will benefit by getting a regular break.

Check back daily. It should be a full week of blogging.


Shelby Perry said...

Pastor Ron,
I'm free to help on regularly scheduled times during the week to help at the church on anything you think I may be useful for. Monday and Wednesday and some Friday mornings are normally good for me is you think I could be useful in any way.

Ron said...

Shelby,thanks for the offer. We'll give you a call.